The Decatur City Council will consider condemning five parcels of property needed for the Shady Grove Lane Southwest widening project because the properties' owners have not agreed to sell.

Assistant City Attorney Chip Alexander said 20 parcels of property are needed for the project near the new Austin High, and owners of 15 of the parcels agreed to deals to sell to the city. He’s been unable to reach deals with owners of four parcels and hasn’t been able to contact the fifth owner to make a deal.

The agenda for Monday's 6 p.m. council meeting includes a vote on condemning the five needed parcels. 

Alexander told the City Council this week that a city uses condemnations when it can’t reach a deal with the landowner. The city recently went through this same process for the Spring Avenue widening project.

“One owner wanted three times more than the amount of the appraised value,” Alexander said Monday.

The city can pay only appraised value during the initial negotiations.

Now the city will present the five parcels in which a deal wasn’t made to Morgan County Probate Judge Greg Cain. He will rule on whether the city has a legal right to condemn the properties.

If Cain rules in favor the city, he will appoint a panel to determine what the final price for each parcel should be. The panel can force the city to pay more than appraised value, Alexander said.

City Engineer Carl Prewitt said the widening of Shady Grove Lane is part of a second phase of road and intersection improvements around Austin High School.

The parcels in question are about a quarter of the 1-mile project that’s projected to cost about $2.2 million. Prewitt said a portion of the road will be widened to three lanes while a portion will remain two lanes but improved so it can handle the increased traffic around the school.

“We will gear up to start (construction) as soon as we have a ruling,” Prewitt said. “Unfortunately, we don’t know when that will be.”

CFO John Andrzejewski said the city is paying for the project with money from a recently financed bond. He did not know when that bond was issued.

With the Morgan County Courthouse shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, city officials are unsure when the condemnation process would begin if council authorizes it to move forward.

There will be marked public seating observing social distancing requirements for Monday's meeting in council chambers at City Hall. City officials said they prefer residents watch online through a link available at decaturalabamausa.com/covid-19/. The public will have an opportunity to send in questions remotely.

In paving news, Prewitt said the city contractor has begun resurfacing Hamaker Street and Woodruff Road in Southwest Decatur. The contractor will not get to finish this week because of other obligations, but Prewitt said he expects work to resume early next week if weather cooperates.

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bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.

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